Match made in heaven


Match made in heaven

Apr 01, 2007

AS THE PERSON SITTING ACROSS FROM YOU TALKS, A million thoughts run through your head. "Do we have the same goals, philosophies, and work ethic? Would I enjoy spending the better part of my waking hours with this person? Is she interested in settling down, buying a house, and investing in the community?"

In a perfect world
No, you're not on a blind date or a contestant on The Dating Game, but it sure feels like it. You're playing The Hiring Game and sometimes you're on the losing end. Where are all the eager associates who view the world your way? And how do you attract them to your practice?

Remember, times have changed

While many associates are looking for a position that contributes to their quality of life, owners are often more interested in financial security. Those financial issues—and the tradition of the equine veterinary profession—can spur you to work long hours. "Long workdays are a significant concern for a lot of potential and established equine associates, but that's slowly changing," says Dr. Mark Baus, managing partner at Fairfield Equine Associates in Newtown, Conn.

Management changes such as increased fees, controlled expenses, and a finely tuned management staff are all leading to more reasonable working hours. Hiring additional doctors to cover emergency duty and to help your team maintain a high standard of care is contributing, too.

Of course, agreement on work hours is only a small part of the picture. You also need to think about your goals and whether they align with those of the candidates you meet. With a generation of owners nearing retirement, many practices feel some urgency to find an associate who's interested in buying into the practice. No surprise here; looking for an associate who's also a potential buyer will narrow the pool of candidates. But if that's your goal, keep it top of mind during your search.

"Think about it like this," says Tracey O'Driscoll-Packer, a California-based equine management consultant: In regard to the type of associate you're looking for, "Are you looking for a long-term girlfriend or someone to have your children?"

What everyone wants

Buy-ins aside, most owners want to find an associate with strong people skills and solid technical knowledge. But remember, those are traits that come with time and with experience in practice. Most individuals, even after an internship, aren't prepared for all the challenges that come with equine medicine, says Dr. Baus.

So it makes sense to hire candidates with the traits you most want, and then help them develop the additional skills they need. For example, a new grad will continue to learn about medicine on the job, so hire for a strong work ethic, a positive view of the world, and a personal dedication to providing high-quality medicine and client service. Those are things you can't get with just anybody.

To attract that great candidate, you need to offer the kind of practice environment he or she is looking for. Dr. Baus says that, generally, basics like a high standard of care are at the top of associates' wish lists. They also want to work with a dedicated, supportive team. And from there they consider the expected work schedule and whether there's the potential for flexible or part-time hours. "I think part-time practice is the way of the future for equine medicine," Dr Baus says. So figuring out how to accommodate that kind of schedule could be key.

Think about it. If you were an associate, where would you want to work? At a practice where the fees are current and accounts receivable are at a reasonable level? At a practice with effective processes and policies, a track record of success, and a vision for the future? Bingo.